Two Bishops Who Don't Seem to Understand "Who Am I to Judge?"

As we come upon the one year-anniversary of Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement on July 29th , it looks like some bishops have not yet “gotten the memo” on stressing mercy and not judgment, while perhaps some others are “getting with the program.”  Today we will look at two recent negative examples from prominent U.S. prelates, while tomorrow we will look at how one gay-friendly prelate has been recognized by the pope.

The two negative examples from the U.S.:

Archbishop Charles Chaput, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Gay News  (PGN) reported on a letter that a local man received recently from Chaput in which the archbishop’s tone can only be described as snide.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Silverman sent a copy of his letter to the archbishop, and received a response on archdiocesan letterhead and signed by Chaput, containing the following statements:

“I received your letter.

“Thanks for giving me instructions on what the Catholic Church should teach. I’m always astonished when people who aren’t believers give me those kind of instructions.

“As I am sure you know from basic logic class, an exception does not make a rule. The nature of marriage itself is about children. That’s how you and I came into this world.”

Silverman said that he assumed the archbishop surmised that he is not Catholic based on his last name.

PGN  quoted a reaction from Ken Gavin, the archdiocesan spokesperson, who would not confirm if Chaput sent the letter:

“Archbishop Chaput makes every effort to respond to all those who write to him on various topics and issues. He considers this correspondence private and would expect that individuals who write to him would respect that privacy.”

Silverman has forwarded Chaput’s letter to Pope Francis.

Did Chaput need to use such a snide tone, especially to someone who is not of his faith?  Of course, such an attitude only makes Chaput himself seem small, but others, too, besides Silverman, will be hurt by such a callous expression.

Cardinal Francis George, Chicago

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Another snide example was recently offered by Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago.  In a column about religious liberty in his diocesan newspaper, George took a swipe at marriage equality proponents by saying they are “on the wrong side of nature.”   This phrase is presumably a parody of marriage equality proponents’ use of “on the wrong side of history” to describe those opposed to such measures.

George’s quotation, in context, reads:

“Americans are concerned about the economy, and rightly so. We are concerned with the loss of our place in the world, and rightly so. We should also be concerned that we are on the wrong side of what nature teaches us and therefore, at least over the long run, headed for historical failure as a society.”

George’s negative style is exemplified in one of the arguments that he uses earlier in the essay:

“What has happened to our vaunted American liberties? Except for property rights, they are all being traded off in favor of freedom of sexual expression. That ‘freedom’ has become the trump card in almost every social dispute. While the public conversation plays the game of liberal versus conservative, there is really only one issue: freedom versus tyranny, a tyranny masquerading as compassion and suppressing legally differences that seem to threaten abstract ‘equality.’ ”

Herein lies a big part of the problem with such an attitude:  George’s language reveals that he sees the question of marriage equality as being primarily about sex and not about love or relationship.  There is not only a failure to see beyond sex, but also to see beyond political reality.   In my reading of Pope Francis’ remarks of the past year, he seems more concerned about human reality than the political one.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry  “Cardinal Francis George: Gay marriage proponents on ‘wrong side of nature'”


5 replies
  1. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    George continues to obstinately create his own logic. We are “headed for historical failure as a society” because we continue our entrenched bigotry, denying freedom to those who don’t agree with him. The hierarchy hasn’t learned much since they accepted slavery of African people and the genocide of Native Americans.

    “[O]ur vaunted American liberties… are all being traded off in favor of” so-called national security which most bishops support, not in allowing people to be free.

    Tyranny certainly is masquerading – as George’s notion of natural law. And equality is hardly an “abstract” for those people suffering discrimination. What is an abstract is the hierarchy’s notion of religious freedom. They should all be sent Iraq where our brother and sister Catholics are being driven from their homes and communities because of their Faith. That’s denial of religious freedom, not the ability to punish people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Finally, “freedom is the only issue”. George should read this morning’s NCR online wherein Roger Karban suggests that “repentance” is the only issue, according to Jesus. But then again, Jesus had probably not ever heard of “natural law” and he was not a “prince” of the church, so what could he know.

  2. Larry
    Larry says:

    I find it interesting that George leaves out property rights as being the only area where American liberty is not being crushed. So the fact that corporations are now people and can dictate that their employees follow the corporate “sincerely held” religious belief, that companies are renouncing their American citizenship to prevent them from paying taxes in this country, the fact that billionaires can now openly buy elections to advance their own economic interests above that of the good of the many and on and on. I hear nothing from prelates like George on these issues because they are part of this money system. As always the gay issue is easy for them to pontificate on [is this a pun?] and not address our real systemic problems that directly effect the 99%.

  3. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    “Americans are concerned about the economy, and rightly so. We are concerned with the loss of our place in the world, and rightly so…..” Gee Willikers! Didn’t Jesus say not to worry about these things, but to be concerned for God’s Kingdom? Whoever these men represent, it doesn’t seem to be Jesus of Nazareth or the Gospel.

  4. Kathleen Fallon
    Kathleen Fallon says:

    I agree that Archbishop Chaput sounds snide in his remarks to Mr. Silverman. Even worse, he sounds nasty, angry, and mean spirited like a leader from the crowds of Sodom. Scarey man in our church leadership if you ask me.
    Cardinal Francis George sounds misguided and misinformed, but not mean or self righteous. He probably hasn’t taken the time yet to study the clobber passages in the bible and see for himself how translations of Greek and Hebrew texts into English bibles were all botched up and are responsible for the negative messages about homosexuals. Until the translation corrections are made, Jesus’s messages of love are lost to the many believers who rely on the accuracy of scripture.


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